Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Exclusive First Look: Wynn Philly


Up until just now, this post included an image of a rendering of Wynn Resorts' planned, presently unnamed $250 million Philadelphia casino. This is what the Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board, sight unseen, predicted would be a "down-market," "low-budget" grind joint so "cheesy" that "it's not even clear that Wynn will put his full name on the joint."

Where'd it go? Well, funny thing, that. I shot that photo right in front of Steve Wynn, who laid out many renderings of the planned casino and specifically told me that the one that mattered was this one. He watched me shoot the photo. But apparently he did not realize that I planned to publish it and has now asked me to remove it. Evidently, there has been a great deal of consternation caused with the Pennsylvania Gaming Commission over the fact that I got this up before they got to see it.

Because Mr. Wynn asked me to and acknowledged to me a "gross misunderstanding," I've granted his request. Lord knows that, the image having been up for five days, others have shot screen shots of it and Google has cached it. So if you're really motivated, it's still out there somewhere.

Since I've removed the image, let me at least describe it. It showed a low-slung, sprawling building with the Wynn logo on a front lawn beyond a porte cochere. That's important because the Philly Inq claimed Wynn would build something he'd be so embarrassed by he wouldn't even put his name on it.

The architecture and exterior design is essentially a reiteration of the podium-level look of his latest luxury resort, Encore Macau, which opens in April.

Pay attention in this image -- used with permission from MacauTripping.Com and furnished by "Ace Macau" -- to the brown conic eaves to the right of the porte-cochere. The Philly design is identical. And Encore Macau, Wynn insisted, is "the most beautiful building we've ever done." (I hope someone's covering the ears of Bellagio and Wynn Las Vegas so their feelings aren't hurt.) More terrific pix from Ace Macau are on MacauTripping.Com.

As I Tweeted, I spent some time with The Steve that day. We actually planned to continue the proper interview component soon because we really only covered art, family and politics today before he had another appointment. And don't worry, podcast listeners, Mr. Wynn clearly consented to the use of these discussions for the show as well as for my other work. In fact, he even told me at one point, "I know you're a Twitterer," which means that the official Wynn Twitterer, Ms. Jade Bailey-Assam, has made tremendous strides in the New Media Education of Mr. Wynn.

Wynn was in a terrific mood, having just been through a lengthy and miserable series of back and knee surgeries that he believes are now behind him. I arrived at his office, where I expected our interview to take place, but I then was driven in a $350,000 Maybach to the villa where he and his girlfriend, Andrea Hissom, live. (She was away.) This meant driving out the South entrance, onto the Strip and then behind the resort to a driveway by the Wynn golf course. Yes, walking would have been easier but certainly less fun.

While I was waiting before I took this little ride, I took note of what lies on the coffee table of his corporate headquarters waiting area: the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Review-Journal, Slots Today, a big photo book on Los Angeles, a book of Pulitzer-winning photos and a book of pictures of Chinese people on bicycles! There are always little yummies there, too:

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There's a book curio cabinet, too, but the image I Tweeted was blurry and worthless. It's populated by lots of tomes on China and art. This, below, is the only image of Wynn in the waiting area, taken in 2008 by a rather famous photographer whose name I took note of but simply can't recall now. Love the antique slot machine, too.

The only interior image of Wynn's villa I shot was this one (below) because he told me I could take it of the art, the famously damaged-and-fixed "Le Reve" by Picasso and a second Picasso to its right.

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Last time I was in Wynn's office, back in late 2008, Le Reve was displayed prominently. But now there's something else there. This:

That is a Rembrandt self-portrait that, until this post, Steve Wynn had never publicly acknowledged owning. [See his non-denial denial to the New York Times.] He bought it for $33.2 million last year and attempted to keep it a secret. He and I had a lengthy discussion of art and his collection which will be part of what airs on "The Strip" in about a week.

Wynn specifically asked his assistant to take me back -- via Maybach - to his office so I could see it. I was equally intrigued by this, displayed below the Rembrandt:

That's a first-edition collection of Carl Sandburg's four-volume "Abraham Lincoln: The War Years." What intrigued me about this is that I'd never known Wynn to be a collector or aficionado of rare books before and I wonder if it's a new interest. I found this link, which indicates it's worth $1,250. My instinct is that it was a gift; I'll be asking tomorrow.

One more tidbit from the villa was that -- check it out -- he has a dog run:

I suppose it makes a lot of sense as he has those two highly trained German Shepherds that both protect him and keep him company. His older one, Paolo, died last year, so he's been replaced.

Want to know how good a mood Wynn was in today? We returned from the Country Club Restaurant where we had lunch and he asked if I wanted, uh, a lollipop. Amusingly, with my hearing disability, I thought he was asking his housekeeper where he had put his "Steve's Lollipops." That cracked me up, that he refers to his candy in the third person. In actuality, he had a jar of...

...See's lollipops. I told him what I had misheard and he found that amusing. "No, no, they're not my lollipops," he said. "They're Warren Buffett's."

This remark completely confounded me until just now.


Anonymous said...

Fascinating stuff, Steve. Can't wait for the audio.

I stayed in the Fairway villas a couple times. They used to be very easy to rent and at one point were even available online. Now they need to clear availability from the casino like most other ultra high roller accommodations. I wonder if it's a security thing having The Steve as your neighbor and all (because I highly doubt the rings you have to jump through to reserve one now has anything to do with the economic rebound).

-Mike E.

Brian Fey said...

Well, I'm glad it looks like they will be using the Wynn name in Philly. It only makes sense as I see it, for them to keep promoting one single name, rather than having to try to build two brand names.

I wonder if Steve does Facebook or Twitter, if he even looks or reads the pages ever?

Lastly, I have 3 hero's in my life, Steve Wynn, Steve Jobs, and Warren Buffett. Warren has is, and has been very Anti-gaming. However, I know he and Steve know each other, I even have a picture of them together, which was taken at Wynn. And in May when I was at the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting, Steve Wynn was in fact there. It makes me wonder, if they have become friends? I'm curious to hear if you have any info on that. I'm guessing these are See's a brand Warren owns, or maybe these were a gift to Wynn from Warren?

atdnext said...

Heh. I wonder if this will give the critics second thoughts... Doubt it. They're just anti-gaming.

I can't wait for the full interview! I want to hear from Mr. Wynn himself on the Philly casino, Encore Macau, and the new Encore LV Beach Club. I'll be busy all day Saturday (don't ask), so I guess I'll have to check next week's podcast.

Anonymous said...

Ha! I chuckled at the Warren Buffet line. Folks should check out the companies in Berkshire Hathaway's portfolio, it's very interesting!

Anonymous said...

Correction: the Wynn Philly casino will be $500-$600 mn; $250 mn is what Wynn is planning to invest in it. (see p. 103 below)

Anonymous said...

dude. that's the ugliest building i've ever seen. it looks like a mausoleum.

Jeff in OKC said...

The E. Parry Thomas bio "Quiet Kingmaker" is an excellent book. Good historical info, in the words of the participants. Steve Wynn's stories are particularly good. He is a top notch storyteller, it seems.
I think you, Steve, should do this type of autobiography with Mr. Wynn. I think he trusts you. I think all the interested parties trust you. I think the world would like an authorized bio of SW and wouldn't be concerned about what he doesn't allow. What he would allow is enough for a legendary book.
Beside, it'd make him feel like Walter Cosgriff, again. Giving a hard working, young writer a chance to make his name even bigger. It'd make you a star.